Exhausted from overwork and heartsick at his cheating lover’s betrayal, Dr. Nick Challoner welcomes the opportunity to escape to the countryside to arrange the sale of an old family house. But charmless Cartmel Villa’s horribly overgrown gardens will require a huge amount of work before it’s ready to be put on the market.
Nick seems to have exchanged one set of problems for another, but gorgeous young gardener Ross Sanders shows him how easily new growth and new love can blossom once ground is cleared.
Silent behind him, I watched Ross work. A sliding step forward, the wide swing of the scythe slicing the grass with a hiss like a sword drawn from a scabbard. No wasted effort, every movement easy, a dance of economy and control. The skin of his back gleamed a richer bronze than the gold of his belly, and my cock jolted as I saw the lats and teres flare into a cobra hood of muscle. Muscle that had been built by hard physical labor, not by fannying around in a gym. Compared to him, I felt soft and somehow inauthentic. Step, swing. Step, swing. He paused and passed a forearm briefly across his dripping face and I wondered whether he’d sweat as heavily when he moved in another rhythm, when there was a body under him, open to the driving power of his cock.
“Ross.” I handed him a bottle of water and added, reluctantly, because his body was so bloody beautiful, “The sun. You should cover up.”
“Thanks,” he said, ignoring this key dermatological recommendation. He rolled the bottle over the back of his neck. “Could do with this.”
I dragged the sack of garden waste away from the bench that overlooked the pond. He sat alongside me and swiped his wet cheek across his shoulder. Heat radiated from him, and I caught the rich odor of his sweat. Androstadienone; it would scent his semen.
He said, “Pond’s like pea soup. Bit late in the season for it but we could try barley straw.”
“Clears the algae. I’ll bring some round tomorrow.”
Mrs King had been right -- Ross was a grafter. Only a day, and a third of the lawns had already been cut. I’d followed the scythe, raking the cut grass into heaps, and then packing it into waste sacks. He’d reluctantly let me tackle the borders, one eye on me as I forked out the worst of what even I recognized as weeds. I’d made a mistake with some foxgloves but he’d simply shrugged and set them back in. It was no Sissinghurst but the skeleton of the garden I remembered from my boyhood was rapidly re-emerging.
I said, “Never seen anyone use a scythe before.”
“Want a go?”
“Probably chop myself off at the knees.”
“Not if you’re careful.” He held out the scythe, its deadly, wicked blade glinting in the late afternoon sunshine. “Left hand goes there, right hand there, see? Okay. You pull with the left, push with the right. Keep your feet apart, nice and wide. Keep your back straight. Bend your knees. Let the tool do the work.”
“Take your word for it.”
He grinned and glugged his water and it struck me how pleasant this handsome man was. After a long day of grinding physical work, my body aching from the unaccustomed exercise, hot and tired and stuck all over with grass cuttings, I felt strangely happy. It was nice, too, to play the apprentice for once, to follow a master of a craft so different from my own. He intrigued me and I wanted to know more about him.